Ask subway riders what they think about the MTA’s new fare hikes, and some tend to reach back for a good MTA story.
About the fare news: The base cost for a MetroCard will stay the same, as per an MTA board vote on Wednesday, while bulk purchase bonuses will be nixed and the price of an unlimited will rise. That’s part of planned biennial increases, and the MTA has been looking for other ways to raise funds for much-needed upgrades that will someday make the riding life easier, goes the argument.
But underground, it can be hard to trust the future. Hence the stories.
Stories of sick passengers, train traffic ahead, or just delays, like Junie Sandiers recently stuck on the A for a long stretch between 59th and 125th streets. Sandiers bemoaned the lack of consistent service on the subway. You had to pay the same fare even when service was bad: “You can’t pay $2.50,” said the 26-year-old, who works in airplane maintenance at LaGuardia Airport.
Stories of riding annoyances, major or minor. Take Derick Williams, a construction worker living in the Bronx who said he was heading to work Tuesday morning when he saw a mother with young kids drop her cell phone onto the track at Simpson Street.
Williams said the mother was told by an MTA employee that she’d have to wait a while for someone to retrieve it.
It’s an outdoor station. The mom was tearing up, the kids looked cold. Williams says he hopped down himself, careful of the third rail, and retrieved the new iPhone.
Other MTA workers just watched him. “They take their time doing anything,” Williams, 42, said. An MTA spokesman said the authority had no record of the incident.
After telling his story, Williams had just finished swiping himself into Penn Station when a rat darted right in front of him, scrabbling under the MetroCard vending machine.
“Look, look, see that?” He shook his head at the symbolism.
Then there were stories about hustling to make the fare in whatever form. Eddie Williams, 44, a messenger from LeFrak City, said he waited until Friday payday to put money on his card in bulk. If he was running low before then, like he did on Wednesday, he sometimes asked for a swipe.
Or Pedro Jimenez, a 51-year-old Bronx handyman, who said he used to buy 30-day unlimiteds but now opted for putting 20 bucks or so on his card, because that’s all he could spend at a time.
The cost of a ride, like other costs, tended to increase, while Jimenez was making the same thing he’d made for years.
Even Mayor Bill de Blasio, not recently much of a straphanger, took a ride on the R train Wednesday and talked to other travelers and heard some stories.
He later said that he “gleaned” that “people really depend on their subways,” according to a transcript.
That doesn’t mean people can’t complain.
“It’s an embarrassment,” said a woman who gave her name as Val B., also waiting for the train at 34th Street.
She said she worked in finance and could afford the increase, but she complained about signal problems on the E and the state of the train cars themselves, which sometimes end up housing the homeless with nowhere else to go.
“They should pay us for riding the subway.” She spotted a discarded MetroCard on the ground and grabbed it before catching her train. So maybe this time, "they" did.